Cucumbers aren’t just healthy, they have practical uses, too

Published 10:00 pm Thursday, October 13, 2016

When many folks think of healthful vegetables, they probably don’t consider the cucumber, but they should.

The cucumber’s scientific name is Cucumin Sativus, and it is actually a fruit, along with tomatoes, beans, peas, corn, peppers and eggplant. Cucumbers belong to the same family as melons, gourds, zucchini, pumpkin and squash. They originated in Nepal, and have been cultivated for more than 3,000 years. The United States ranks fifth in worldwide production of cucumbers, with 883,360 tons per year.

The health benefits of cucumbers are abundant. First, they contain the nutrients Vitamin K, molybdenum, Vitamin C, potassium, tryptophan, and Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid). They contain flavonoids — compounds found in fruits and vegetables — that produce an antioxidant effect; lignans, which are estrogen-like chemicals that also act as antioxidants; and triterpenes, which are fruit and vegetable compounds that produce a pharmacological effect in treating conditions such as wounds, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease and arthritis.

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Cucumbers have been shown to provide anti-cancer benefits in the prevention of several cancer types including breast, uterine, ovarian and prostate. Fresh cucumber extract has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties.

Cucumbers are great for dieters, too. One whole cup contains only 16 calories, yet provides energy, because of its B vitamin.

With all these benefits, it’s clear cucumbers are one of the world’s most healthful food, but here are a few cucumber uses you might never have heard.

Have a squeaky door hinge? Rub the hinge with a piece of cucumber, and the squeak disappears. Cucumbers are a great, and green way (pardon the pun), to clean faucets, stainless steel and sinks. Rubbing them will not only clean and bring back the shine, they won’t leave streaks, and won’t harm your nails or your hands.

Having trouble with garden pests, like insects and grubs? Put a piece of fresh cucumber on a pie tin, then place in your garden. Chemicals in cucumber will react with the aluminum and produce a scent undetectable to humans, but will make pests flee.

Rubbing a cucumber slice along a mirror will keep it from fogging. The outside of a cucumber can erase ink, crayon and markers.

Though there are hundreds of varieties of cucumber, most are put into two categories: pickling and slicing. When buying cucumbers, choose ones that are firm, dark green (although not all cucumbers are green), and heavy for their size. You can refrigerate cucumbers in a plastic bag up to one week.

Cucumbers are usually coated with a waxy substance, so I recommend peeling (after washing) non-organic ones. Always wash produce to prevent food borne illnesses like E coli. You can purchase fruit/vegetable washes like “Fit,” or make your own. Mix 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 tablespoon baking soda, and 1 cup water for spraying, or ¼ cup vinegar and 2 tablespoons salt for soaking produce. Cucumber slices are great whether fresh or soaked in apple cider vinegar.

Diet or exercise question? Email me at David Crocker of Landrum has been a nutritionist and master personal trainer for 29 years. He served as strength director of the Spartanburg Y.M.C.A., head strength coach for the USC Upstate baseball team, the SC state champion girls gymnastic team, and the Converse College equestrian team. He served as a water safety instructor to the United States Marine Corps, lead trainer to L.H. Fields modeling agency, and taught for four semesters at USC Union. David was also a regular guest of the Pam Stone radio show.